SIMON Walton may have been lumbered with the tag of Hartlepool United’s pantomime villain.
But the midfielder is in the middle of arguably his best spell since joining the club.
And his partner in the heart of the Pools side, Matty Dolan, says Walton has been integral in the team’s brilliant run and will be again tonight against Wimbledon (kick-off 7.45pm).
Walton was magnificent in the sensational sequence of away wins, 4-1 at Mansfield Town, 1-0 at Sheffield United and 3-0 at Exeter City.
But then the 26-year-old carried that form into the 1-0 win over Plymouth on Saturday, when Pools were forced to dig deep after playing three quarters of the League Two clash with only 10 men after the sending off of Jack Compton.
Walton and Dolan have formed an excellent central pairing and the duo will be key men tonight against the Dons.
Hartlepool lad Dolan, coming towards the end of his second month on loan at Pools, says the pair have built up a good understanding.
“Me and Si get on well off the pitch as well as on it,” Dolan told SportMail. “Si’s had it a bit tough, but anyone who has been there the last two Saturdays will say that he was brilliant, as he has been all season to be fair.
“It’s good to play alongside someone who is confident in his own form.”
Yet, both men are, as indeed are the whole squad at the present time.
One of Walton’s strengths seems to be his fortitude – even if he has made a mistake he never shies away from wanting the ball.
“You can’t hide as a midfielder,” said Dolan, who has not only shone in the League Two side but has been impressed with the manner in which Pools have approached the games.
“I wondered, dropping down a league, whether the ball might go a little bit longer.
“But the gaffer has instilled in us that we are going to be a passing side.
“I think people will have seen that over the last few games but it’s something we’ve been trying to do all season.
“It’s been coming but now it has clicked and hopefully we can keep going on a winning streak.”
Pools will start as favourites tonight against a side who have won only once in the last six games.
l POOLS’ reserve team match at Barnsley yesterday was called off because of a waterlogged pitch.